It's all in your head.
I was tired, but I had multitude of errands run-take wife to the market, shuttle the kids to a study group, and then complete a major assignment for graduate school. Lack of sleep only added to my anxiety.
Things went from bad to worse driving home. There was a sudden movement in front of me. I hit the brakes, but not quickly enough. I spent the next three hours conversing with the police and insurance company-precious time I could have devoted to my assignment. By the time I sat at my desk to review my articles, I had only four hours to do the work I was in big trouble. My problems had multiplied, looming like titans.
Despite the shortness of time, I left my desk and went to the gym, ran on the track, exercised in the machine room, took a shower and got dressed. I felt calm. My problems were still there, but they were no longer the giants I had thought they were. Upon returning home, I completed my assignment and met the deadline.
What helped me? Substances produced in the brain called endorphins.
The Importance of Endorphins
Endorphins are substances produced only by the human brain. They are important for pain control, as well as regulating blood pressure and body temperature (Andersson and Lundeberg, 1995). During stress, people who secrete endorphins have lower heart rate reactivity. Before and during recovery from stress, an endorphin producer has lower mean arterial blood pressure (McCubbin, et al., 1992). Endorphins are the body's own opiate (Terenius, 1982).
Endorphins are hundreds of times more powerful than heroin and many times more than morphine (Cornejo, 1995; Davis, 1984). In terms of stimulant power, they have a tremendous impact on attitude, the will and mental insight. Experimental work with animals has shown improvements in memory and learning capacity when endorphins were involved (Davis, 1984).
Great leaders produce high levels of endorphins (Cornejo, 1995). From a physiological viewpoint, this helps explain their energy, tenacity and power despite the problems they face. For instance, how did a person like Mother Teresa, so small and frail, work so hard and feed thousands of people each day?
Endorphins make us feel good. They give us a sensation of wellness and peace, helping shrink our problems to their true dimensions. They diminish our giants, creating a euphoric effect that gives us energy, enthusiasm and power to accomplish daily tasks (Pierce, et al., 1993).
Since endorphins are so important, what can we do to produce them? Several stimuli make our brains produce these substances, such as meditation, laughing and positive attitude (Harte, Eifert and Smith, 1995). There is one stimulus, however, that makes our brains produce endorphins in larger amounts-intensive aerobic exercise (Rahkila, et al, 1988).
Conditions of Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise includes vigorous walking, jogging, hiking, biking and step exercising. A few important conditions transform common exercise into aerobic exercise:
* Frequency--Aerobic exercise should be performed at least three or four times a week. Once a week helps, but it is insufficient. From a heart disease prevention viewpoint, some research suggests exercising aerobically once a week is worse than doing nothing.
* Duration--Each exercise session should last at least 35 minutes. During the first seven minutes of exercise you consume circulant glucose. You consume stored glucose up to the first 30 minutes. If exercise continues, the body synthesizes glucose from its stored fat. This entire process occurs only in the presence of a large amount of oxygen.
* Sweat-Aerobic exercise should produce a profuse amount of sweat. This indicates endorphin secretion.
When you satisfy these prerequisites, you will feel relaxed-especially after taking a bath or shower. The problems of life will appear less ominous. This does not mean they will disappear, but your attitude will improve significantly. Initially, your problems may appear in monstrous proportions, but endorphins help you see them in their true dimensions, providing you with enough energy, strength and enthusiasm to keep going in your daily work tasks. Take advantage of this natural chemical process.
Cesar Galvez is a freelance writer residing in Loma Linda, California.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 1998|
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